Deadspin/Slate: The Effect of Eliminating Kickoffs

The guys at Deadspin and Slate asked me to write up how Goodell's suggestion that kickoffs be replaced by punts would affect the game.

Here's the Slate link. Here's the Deadspin link.

...With proposed rule changes like these, I ask myself, "What if things had always been this way? Would we want to change from that to the way things are now?" If football didn't have the extra point—an odd play that's meaningless to game outcomes 99.9 percent of the time—would we want to invent one? Probably not.

In this case, if we'd always started the game with a punt, would we want to invent the kickoff? It's not so clear. With the yard line of the kickoff now at the 35 and as placekickers continue their trend of booting the ball farther, it won't be long before every kickoff is a touchback. The kickoff might soon become like the extra point—a boring formality...

I strongly recommend Keith's post on the subject too.

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12 Responses to “Deadspin/Slate: The Effect of Eliminating Kickoffs”

  1. Owen says:

    I wrote a similar comment at Football Outsiders, but I think that penalties would have a much greater impact under the new format. There are a number of reasons for this, the biggest being that with a kickoff, a penalty alone cannot force the receiving team to relinquish possession. Under the new format, any personal foul would effectively result in a loss of possession as it would give the kicking team a first down.

  2. Brian Burke says:

    Good point.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Of course, the penalty rules could be tweaked to avoid that result in this unique situation. E.g., 15-yard penalties would be something less (14?), and no automatic first downs.

  4. Alan says:

    I kind of like the new proposal; but then I'm one of those who'd like to either get rid of PATs or push them back to make them "missable" (at least twenty percent of the time, say).

    Something else about kickoffs I've been noticing this year more than I ever recall seeing before: returners making ill-fated decisions to bring them out of the end zone and getting stuck short of the 20 (in one recent game it was horribly short, like the 8). Is this really up this year? And given that returning a kick also risks a turnover, has there been an attempt to quantify how often (if ever) returners should be taking the ball out of the end zone rather than taking a knee?

  5. James says:

    Alan, here you go:

  6. Alan says:

    Ask and I shall receive! That was quick--thanks, James.

    Interesting that the author was getting the same gut feeling I did in terms of noticing a lot of returners getting stuffed inside the 20. But apparently, statistically speaking, they should not be kneeling more even when fielding the kick near the back of the end zone.

    Outside of the brute statistics, though, I do still wonder if some of those returners should be able to *see* that it's a bad situation and let discretion be the better part of valour. Off topic musing for this site, though, I suppose.

  7. Anonymous says:

    There is more to analyzing this suggestion than just comparison between converting 4th and 15 and onside kick success. For example, consider timing. When does the clock start? On a kickoff the clock starts when the ball is touched by an member of the receiving team in the field of play.
    For the suggested change,if the clock starts when the ball is hiked, the receiving team loses about 5 seconds or more (could be critical at end of game). If the clock starts under the kickoff rules, then when does it start if there is a fake punt?
    On an onside kick, the team that's trying the onside kick loses a couple of second at most. If they have to run a normal play, they probably lose 10 or more seconds if successful.

  8. Nate says:

    I wonder how this plan would interact with the new overtime rules. The initial kick-off is currently not considered to be a possession for the kicking team, but a fourth and 15 really ought to be.

    > For the suggested change,if the clock starts when the ball is
    > hiked, the receiving team loses about 5 seconds or more (could be
    > critical at end of game).

    It could easily be more than that. Depending on the way the rules are written, the 'kicking' team could plausibly run the ball back to its own end zone for an intentional safety and trade 10 seconds for 2 points.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I think 15 yards is too much. If the defense can sit back too much, knowing the kick is inevitable, then this is basically a punt after safety. Is there that much difference between that and a kickoff (as far as injury expectations are concerned)?

  10. Anonymous says:

    I also would love to see them get rid of the PAT

    I think the old WFL rule would be fantastic, 7 points for a touchdown, and a chance for one point with the "action point" for an 8th point...this would also downgrade the value of field goals making even 4th and goal at the 5 a no brainer go for it, it is a potential 8 points virus 3

    one man's opinion

  11. Anonymous says:

    according to wikipedia under WFL, the nfl had action points for pre-season 1968, but I can't find any preseason boxscores for that season

  12. Anonymous says:

    one last not closure to the 1968 nfl rule experiment

    Houston, 1968: Houston Oilers 9, Washington Redskins 3. Before the World Football League invented the “action point,” NFL and AFL owners voted to experiment with the “pressure point” in all 1968 interleague exhibitions. Extra points could not be kicked, and running or passing the conversion was worth 1 point rather than2, making the pressure point a hybrid of both leagues’ rules. Houston’s Willie Campbell failed in the first attempt to score a pressure point, in what was also the first game in a domed stadium, the Astrodome.

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